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What Part Of The Brain Does Parkinson’s Disease Affect

Frontiers In Aging Neuroscience

Understanding Parkinson’s disease

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, United States

Reviewed by

University of Florida, United States

The editor and reviewers affiliations are the latest provided on their Loop research profiles and may not reflect their situation at the time of review.

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The Cerebellum And Dyskinesia

Chronic dopamine replacement therapy in patients with Parkinsons disease is commonly complicated by involuntary movements known as levodopa-induced dyskinesia . The neural mechanisms of levodopa-induced dyskinesia are still partially obscure, but levodopa-induced dyskinesia has been considered to be the consequence of an abnormal activity pattern in the striato-thalamo-cortical loops, which in turn induces the excessive disinhibition of thalamocortical neurons and overactivation of cortical motor areas . Recent studies suggested that the cerebello-thalamo-cortical circuit also contributes to the development of levodopa-induced dyskinesia. Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus or globus pallidus, the surgical procedures that alleviate levodopa-induced dyskinesia , was reported to modulate neural activity or metabolism in the cerebellum . In a PET study on patients with advanced Parkinsons disease undergoing stereotactic pallidal surgery , the level of binding potential of cerebellar sigma receptors did not correlate with the Hoehn and Yahr stages, or Unified Parkinsons Disease Rating Scale, but a positive correlation was seen between the binding potential and the preoperative levodopa-induced dyskinesia severity score, giving evidence that the cerebellum may be involved in the genesis of dyskinesia.

When People Talk About Parkinsons They May Mention The Effects It Has On The Substantia Nigra But Did You Know That There Are Other Areas Of The Brain That Are Affected By The Condition

Parkinsons is a condition that causes the gradual loss of the dopamine-producing brain cells of the substantia nigra an area of the brain located just above where the spinal cord meets the midbrain. It is these cells that produce and release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has a key role in turning thought about movement into action.

While this definition of the condition is useful to briefly explain Parkinsons, the whole story is somewhat more complex. Over the last 30 years, it has become accepted that Parkinsons also causes a number of non-motor symptoms, such as changes in sleep, smell and even the way we think, which likely involve other areas of the brain.

Now scientists are looking at the broader effects of the condition on the brain in an attempt to better understand why people experience different symptoms. The finding could lead us to new treatments that tackle more than just the motor symptoms of the condition.

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Pathophysiology Of Parkinsons Disease

Although we are learning more each day about the pathophysiology of Parkinsons disease, it is still considered largely idiopathic . It likely involves the interaction of host susceptibility and environmental factors. A small percentage of cases are genetically linked and genetic factors are being intensely studied.

Physiologically, the symptoms associated with Parkinsons disease are the result of the loss of a number of neurotransmitters, most notably dopamine. Symptoms worsen over time as more and more of the cells affected by the disease are lost. The course of the disease is highly variable, with some patients exhibiting very few symptoms as they age and others whose symptoms progress rapidly.

Parkinsons is increasingly seen as a complex neurodegenerative disease with a sequence of progression. There is strong evidence that it first affects the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve and the olfactory bulbs and nucleus, then the locus coeruleus, and eventually the substantia nigra. Cortical areas of the brain are affected at a later stage. Damage to these various neuronal systems account for the multi-faceted pathophysiologic changes that cause impairments not just to the motor system but also to the cognitive and neuropsychological systems .

Living With Parkinson Disease

How Does Parkinson

These measures can help you live well with Parkinson disease:

  • An exercise routine can help keep muscles flexible and mobile. Exercise also releases natural brain chemicals that can improve emotional well-being.
  • High protein meals can benefit your brain chemistry
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help your ability to care for yourself and communicate with others
  • If you or your family has questions about Parkinson disease, want information about treatment, or need to find support, you can contact the American Parkinson Disease Association.

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Locating The Basal Ganglia

The basal ganglia are collections of nerve cells located deep within the brain. They include the following:

  • Caudate nucleus

  • Globus pallidus

  • Subthalamic nucleus

  • Substantia nigra

The basal ganglia help initiate and smooth out muscle movements, suppress involuntary movements, and coordinate changes in posture.

Drugs And Medication Used To Treat Parkinsons Disease

A number of different drugs can be used to treat Parkinsons.


Levodopa is the most common treatment for Parkinsons. It helps to replenish dopamine.

About 75 percent of cases respond to levodopa, but not all symptoms are improved. Levodopa is generally given with carbidopa.

Carbidopa delays the breakdown of levodopa which in turn increases the availability of levodopa at the blood-brain barrier.

Dopamine agonists

Dopamine agonists can imitate the action of dopamine in the brain. Theyre less effective than levodopa, but they can be useful as bridge medications when levodopa is less effective.

Drugs in this class include bromocriptine, pramipexole, and ropinirole.


Anticholinergics are used to block the parasympathetic nervous system. They can help with rigidity.

Benztropine and trihexyphenidyl are anticholinergics used to treat Parkinsons.


Amantadine can be used along with carbidopa-levodopa. Its a glutamate-blocking drug . It offers short-term relief for the involuntary movements that can be a side effect of levodopa.

COMT inhibitors

Catechol O-methyltransferase inhibitors prolong the effect of levodopa. Entacapone and tolcapone are examples of COMT inhibitors.

Tolcapone can cause liver damage. Its usually saved for people who do not respond to other therapies.

Ectacapone does not cause liver damage.

Stalevo is a drug that combines ectacapone and carbidopa-levodopa in one pill.

MAO-B inhibitors

  • antidepressants
  • St. Johns wort

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What Medications Are Used To Treat Parkinsons Disease

Medications are the main treatment method for patients with Parkinsons disease. Your doctor will work closely with you to develop a treatment plan best suited for you based on the severity of your disease at the time of diagnosis, side effects of the drug class and success or failure of symptom control of the medications you try.

Medications combat Parkinsons disease by:

  • Helping nerve cells in the brain make dopamine.
  • Mimicking the effects of dopamine in the brain.
  • Blocking an enzyme that breaks down dopamine in the brain.
  • Reducing some specific symptoms of Parkinsons disease.

Levodopa: Levodopa is a main treatment for the slowness of movement, tremor, and stiffness symptoms of Parkinsons disease. Nerve cells use levodopa to make dopamine, which replenishes the low amount found in the brain of persons with Parkinsons disease. Levodopa is usually taken with carbidopa to allow more levodopa to reach the brain and to prevent or reduce the nausea and vomiting, low blood pressure and other side effects of levodopa. Sinemet® is available in an immediate release formula and a long-acting, controlled release formula. Rytary® is a newer version of levodopa/carbidopa that is a longer-acting capsule. The newest addition is Inbrija®, which is inhaled levodopa. It is used by people already taking regular carbidopa/levodopa for when they have off episodes .

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How Soon After Treatment Will I Feel Better And How Long Will It Take To Recover

Parkinson’s Disease: How is the brain affected?

The time it takes to recover and see the effects of Parkinson’s disease treatments depends strongly on the type of treatments, the severity of the condition and other factors. Your healthcare provider is the best person to offer more information about what you can expect from treatment. The information they give you can consider any unique factors that might affect what you experience.

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New Approaches For Monitoring And Treating Pd

The system-level view of PD features has a high potential for the development of innovative procedures for monitoring and treating PD. We show this by illustrating some of these possibilities. Regarding monitoring, one of the biggest future challenges for imaging techniques applied to PD is to integrate their results to identify the mechanisms that might be targeted with drugs and other interventions.,,

By disentangling the multifaceted mechanisms underlying PD symptoms, the system view of PD proposed here, operationalized into dynamical system-level models integrating multi-source data, could lead to a systematic data-driven improvement of therapies., We support this possibility by referring to some relevant treatment techniques. DBS and transcranial magnetic stimulation have been used with various brain targets, in particular sites involving areas of the BGCtxCer system and not only BG. Indeed, several experiments support the idea that DBS preferentially modulates remote structures rather than local circuits since fibers of passage are more excitable than local cell bodies at the site of stimulation. The analysis of the corticalsubcortical circuits discussed above, possibly supported by computational models integrating multiple data sources, could represent a necessary step to better understand the mechanisms underlying DBS/TMS effects and so to identify possible new targets within the BGCtxCer system.

Treatment Of Parkinsons Disease

Treatment varies somewhat depending on at which age the disease first appears. Patients under 60 years will usually start with drugs that increase cell production of dopamine. After a couple of years the treatment will change to substances which convert into dopamine in the body . Patients over 60 years of age when diagnosed will usually start with L-DOPA. Additionally, there are some similar substances, which can complement, or replace, depending on the effect on symptoms. The side effects might be the above mentioned on-off phenomena.

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Living With Parkinson’s Disease

Coming to terms with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s and living with the disease is challenging and will take a lot of adjustment. There are still things you can do that can help you to feel more in control of your situation and to stay positive. Some things that might help could include:

  • choosing to lead a healthy lifestyle
  • making informed decisions related to your treatment
  • keeping a diary of your symptoms in preparation for meetings with health and social care professionals
  • attending a self-management course

Is Parkinson’s Diagnosed In The Brain


Parkinson’s disease is one of the most challenging neurological disorders to diagnose and treat. If your doctor suspects you have Parkinson’s disease, you will usually be referred to a neurologist for further tests. These tests will involve certain movements and exercises to check your symptoms.

A neurologist will look for motor symptoms such as:

  • A tremor that occurs at rest
  • Slowed movement
  • Muscle stiffness

If you have two or more of these symptoms and your doctor has taken blood tests to rule out other causes, it’s likely you will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Your symptoms will be closely monitored to see any progression of Parkinson’s disease, which can take years.

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Parkinsons Diseaseassociated Pathological Changes In The Cerebellum

The presence of dopaminergic innervation and dopamine D13 receptors in the cerebellum has been proven . The cerebellum receives a dopaminergic projection from the ventral tegmental area/substantia nigra pars compacta . Pathological changes in the cerebellum following dopaminergic degeneration were reported in patients with Parkinsons disease and animal models. showed that degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons causes dysfunction of both the basal gangliathalamic and cerebello-thalamic pathways in 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats and MPTP monkeys. Neuronal degeneration in the cerebellum was shown in an MPTP mouse model , characterized by the loss of Nissl-stained Purkinje cells and aggravated by the number of repeated MPTP injections. An MPTP insult also induced the loss of calcium-binding positive Purkinje cells in monkeys . A recent study found that persistent hyperactivation of Purkinje cells correlated with the level of dopaminergic neuronal loss in the substantia nigra in chronic parkinsonian monkeys .

How Is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed

Someone with the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may be sent to see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain, nerves, and muscles. The neurologist may do some tests, including a brain scan and blood tests. These tests will not make the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, but the doctor will want to make sure that there is no other problem causing the symptoms. To diagnose Parkinson’s disease, the doctor relies on a person’s medical history, symptoms, and a physical exam.

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What Causes Parkinson Disease

Parkinson disease arises from decreased dopamine production in the brain. The absence of dopamine makes it hard for the brain to coordinate muscle movements. Low dopamine also contributes to mood and cognitive problems later in the course of the disease. Experts don’t know what triggers the development of Parkinson disease most of the time. Early onset Parkinson disease is often inherited and is the result of certain gene defects.

Nervous Systems And The Nervous System

What is Parkinson’s?

Nervous SystemThe human body is one of the most complex structures known to mankind. To this day, we still do not have all the answers to how our body functions. One of the most complex structures in the human body is the nervous system, which controls the voluntary and involuntary actions, as well as send signals throughout the body. The nervous system is split up into two parts the peripheral and central nervous systems. The central nervous system consists of two main parts the

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What Part Of The Brain Does Parkinsons Disease Affect

Parkinson& rsquor s disease is a condition that impairs mobility and affects the brain and spinal cord. Tremor, slowness, stiffness, and balance issues are signs of dopamine-producing neurons dying. Medication, nutrition, exercise, and deep brain stimulation surgery are just a few of the treatments that aim to lessen symptoms so that a patient can lead a more active lifestyle.

Parkinson& rsquor s illness may get worse with time. It& rsquor s crucial to understand that everyone with Parkinson& rsquor s experiences the disease differently. The symptoms and rate of development differ amongst patients.

Unsteadiness and shaking in the hands, arms, legs, or other body parts are frequent symptoms.

Parkinson& rsquor s is not only treatable but also manageable. Symptoms might be something you can control for years.

Parkinson& rsquor s disease can likewise become incapacitating. Life expectancy and quality may be impacted by related conditions.

What Exactly Are Lewy Bodies

Lewy bodies are “clumps” of protein that accumulate in the outer layers of the brain, also known as the cortex. In addition to Parkinson’s, they are also a feature of dementia. Although we don’t know precisely what part Lewy bodies play in Parkinson’s disease or dementia, we do know that they are not the sole cause of Parkinson’s disease and its various symptoms. Some studies indicate that dopamine cells die before they even reach this part of the brain, but this is unconfirmed.

Despite the enigma of the Parkinson’s brain, many scientists have identified Lewy bodies as a potential target for new treatments. These treatments for Parkinson’s disease could be available in a matter of years, not decades.

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How Does Parkinson’s Affect The Body

The telltale symptoms all have to do with the way you move. You usually notice problems like:

Rigid muscles. It can happen on just about any part of your body. Doctors sometimes mistake early Parkinson’s for arthritis.

Slow movements. You may find that even simple acts, like buttoning a shirt, take much longer than usual.

Tremors. Your hands, arms, legs, lips, jaw, or tongue are shaky when you’re not using them.

Walking and balance problems. You may notice your arms aren’t swinging as freely when you walk. Or you can’t take long steps, so you have to shuffle instead.

Parkinson’s can also cause a range of other issues, from depression to bladder problems to acting out dreams. It may be a while before abnormal movements start.

What Medications And Treatments Are Used

Brain Injury from Parkinson

Medication treatments for Parkinsons disease fall into two categories: Direct treatments and symptom treatments. Direct treatments target Parkinsons itself. Symptom treatments only treat certain effects of the disease.


Medications that treat Parkinsons disease do so in multiple ways. Because of that, drugs that do one or more of the following are most likely:

Several medications treat specific symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms treated often include the following:

  • Erectile and sexual dysfunction.
  • Hallucinations and other psychosis symptoms.

Deep brain stimulation

In years past, surgery was an option to intentionally damage and scar a part of your brain that was malfunctioning because of Parkinsons disease. Today, that same effect is possible using deep-brain stimulation, which uses an implanted device to deliver a mild electrical current to those same areas.

The major advantage is that deep-brain stimulation is reversible, while intentional scarring damage is not. This treatment approach is almost always an option in later stages of Parkinson’s disease when levodopa therapy becomes less effective, and in people who have tremor that doesnt seem to respond to the usual medications.

Experimental treatments

Researchers are exploring other possible treatments that could help with Parkinsons disease. While these arent widely available, they do offer hope to people with this condition. Some of the experimental treatment approaches include:

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What Causes Parkinsons Disease

The most prominent signs and symptoms of Parkinsons disease occur when nerve cells in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that controls movement, become impaired and/or die. Normally, these nerve cells, or neurons, produce an important brain chemical known as dopamine. When the neurons die or become impaired, they produce less dopamine, which causes the movement problems associated with the disease. Scientists still do not know what causes the neurons to die.

People with Parkinsons disease also lose the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine, the main chemical messenger of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls many functions of the body, such as heart rate and blood pressure. The loss of norepinephrine might help explain some of the non-movement features of Parkinsons, such as fatigue, irregular blood pressure, decreased movement of food through the digestive tract, and sudden drop in blood pressure when a person stands up from a sitting or lying position.

Many brain cells of people with Parkinsons disease contain Lewy bodies, unusual clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein. Scientists are trying to better understand the normal and abnormal functions of alpha-synuclein and its relationship to genetic mutations that impact Parkinsons andLewy body dementia.

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